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Life as I'm learning it

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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an agèd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What ails United?

Without saying as much, Sir Alex Ferguson has conceded the 2005-06 Premiership to Chelsea. The fiery Scot has opined that his team are better positioned to win the Champions League than the Premier League. So what is wrong with Manchester United, the most famous club in the world?

As I see it, the problem with United is that their central midfield isn't very potent. Paul Scholes is trying to find form. Roy Keane is playing only on and off. Alan Smith is still learning to fill up Keane's big boots. Fletcher has a lot to do, to impress the Mancunian faithful.

Some seasons ago, Keane would anchor the central midfield, and push the play forward. This meant that they didn't have to rely excessively on their wings to create chances and produce goals. So even if Beckham or Giggs had a bad game, United would win (with a reduced margin).

When United won the league in 2003, Scholes had 18 goals (I think) against his name, that's one in two games. And most of the goals came in games in which Ruud van Nistelrooy wasn't doing well, around Christmas time. I think he even got a hat-trick at Tyneside, and that year, the Toons finished 3rd!

With the drop in form of Keane and Scholes, the pressure shifts to the wings. Ronaldo and Giggsey. Ruud doesn't get the service he used to, hence fewer goals. Even this season, Ruud has to drop back to win balls. Rooney is playing like a LCAM, not unlike Ronaldinho for Barcelona, and not as a proper striker.

The way out? If Keane is moving out in the summer, then some very influential player is needed in the centre of midfield. That's why United are keen on Ballack. In fact, United's class of the 90s is aging now. So, Fergie has to find replacements fast. Park has come in for Giggs. In the next couple of years, we will find him taking the left wing more frequently. I think Fergie will persist with Scholes for some time, but if he doesn't find form, then he will have to go too.

But hang on...

United have another generation of youngsters now. Rooney and Ronaldo, being the most prominent. And then there is Miller, who was brought in as a "future Beckham". Guiseppe Rossi and Gerard Pique who debuted against Sunderland. Not to forget Bardsley, who is in the Neville mould, and Jonathon Spector, the 18 year old American left back - he was very impressive in his few appearances last season. That's seven players under 20!

Which is why SAF is next only to God!


Blogger Selva said...

Good to read your post. I was not at all following soccer this season. The only match I saw was the one in which ManU beat Charlton (your post: Park, thy name...) It is disheartening to witness the league being given by great teams like ManU and Arsenal so early in the season. Hope at least the champions league in interesting. After all, I am also one of those who want an all English finals.


10/18/2005 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger Vijay Krishna said...

Just an update. United drew last night against Lille, at home. The scoreline: 0 - 0. Scholes was sent off!

I wonder, are prophets born, or do they become that way?

10/18/2005 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Jupe said...

SAF is next to God ? Keep dreaming VK :-) When i look at the abundance of riches we have in midfied its embarassing....4 world class wingers in robben, duff, sw philips and joe cole, the wonderful makelele in the holding postiion and lamps and essien to drive us forward... i jes cant see us losing at all esp after the Bolton victory...and to think that there are ppl, nay legends, who call us boring... ha ha ha....

Long live 'The Special One' :-)

ps: I think Ballack will give Man U some edge in midfield but then SAF might not be willing to dish out the money Bayern want for him...Lets see...

10/19/2005 06:03:00 AM  
Blogger Vijay Krishna said...

Jupe bhai, Chelski are not winning the Premiership, they are buying it. If such a team was so special, why were the knocked out of the Champions League?

Mourinho himself accepted that Barcelona were the best team in Europe last season. Chelsea play to win, not to entertain. That's bad for the game.

Show me the Rossi, Rooney or Ronaldo in Chelsea's ranks. Where is your homegrown talent, Sir?

10/19/2005 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger maverick said...

While I've been a die-hard ManUtd supporter, I do accept the criticism that has come lately.

Lets see why Chelski is doing so well and why ManUtd is not faring as well as it used to.
1. Other than Terry and Pidgeley (their 3rd keeper) most of the players who have been bought had established themselves in the league and also in their last team. And the average age of the midfield there is less than ManUtd. On the contrary, ManUtd has got an aging midfield and some who are on the way to establishing themselves, Smith is still question mark (but he looks promising), Fletch is looking better than the last couple of seasons.
2. Chelski has Duff and SWP (he has the speed but not the effectiveness as Duff) are very good wingers. Giggs is still pretty good but cannot play every game. Park has been trying to add the spark...and he's doing it pretty well. Ronaldo needs to hold on to the ball less and pass more. But he like Rooney can create that moment of magic when you least expect it.
3. Chelski has not had any major injury problems since Mourinho took over. On the contrary, ManUtd has had very few games where they have had the full roster to choose from - which leads to a weak bench-strength.

But the above said, what's in store for ManUtd:
1. Players coming through the ranks like Rossi, Piquet, Bardsley, Kieren, Spector - most of them just getting out of their teens. And ManUtd has never shied from blooding their young talent in the first side.
2. Every side goes through a transition where new players come in and great players leave. Where was Chelski before last year??? I do not think we would win the league this year but the coming years gives me great hope - where money (or less of it compared to Chelski) alone would not decide ManUtd's fate! Give it another year. Mark my words!
3. Rooney is going to be just 20 in 4 days time. Ronaldo is 20, Fletch is 21, Smithie and Park are 24. :)

So lets see who has the last laugh!

PS: Neither Rooney or Ronaldo are homegrown. O'Shea and Fletch are with Spector (from Chicago Sockers), Kieren (from West Ham) and Rossi (from Parma) having joined the academy.

10/19/2005 08:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Jupe said...

Dudes - maverick and VK,

I am beginning to get a little tired of this Chelski baiting... yeah, we splashed a lot of money but so do all the big clubs so why this double stds... Milan is owned by Berlusconi who is/was the PM of Italy...Real Madrid spends billions on its galacticos and pls chk how much Barca pay to keep stars like Eto, Ronaldinho and Deco with themselves...And even if we do have a team of superstars there is no assurance that success is automatic.. jes look at the Aus vs World XI cricket series... the bigger the stars, the bigger the egos.. managing it and coming out trumps is a huge task.. and Jose deserves full credit for it as do each and every Chelsea player...Winning the EPL handsomely and reaching the semis of the CL before losing out on a contriversial goal is still a huge achievement for a manager in his first year...

Lets come to the other points under discussion...Mates, I don't know how long u have been following the game but I have been a fan of chelsea since 98 and i know the team from the hey days of Vialli, Zola, Wise and co:... and trust me when i say that Chelsea have always played attractive football.. You tok of Rooney and Ronaldo and hope for that one moment of inspired genius.. u shud have seen Zola then...even at 37 in his last season at Cagliari, Zola was magical...and he spent 7 seasons with Chelsea...Yes, without any doubt Barca were the most attractive team in Europe last year but u must also accept that Chelsea were much better than both Milan and Liverpool...I guess its not always about playing attractive footbal, its about playing to win...and though Mourinho needed time to mould his team into one unit and so was prepared to settle for 1-0 wins in 2004, this year has shown us that Chelsea are "really boring" - who wants to pay and see 4-0, 5-1 routs :-p

What exactly is home-grown talent ? Well, Man U has a strong academy system but then they invested in scouts and catch-em-young programs early on.. and yes, Chelsea and other teams are now waking upto it but u must also realise that some of Chelsea's biggest stars were either nondescript players or ones with potential but yet untapped till Chelsea changed them....Cudicini (Castel Di Sangro), Lamps (West Ham), Terry (juniors), Le Saux (juniors) etc...

Btw, as far as injuries go, yes we have been lucky and even if we did have a couple of hits our depth in squad has bailed us out but then to manage injuries is also an art and give us credit there... If SAF had to rush Nistelrooy quicker after his injury last year, it shows lack of foresight than anything else...

I do agree that Man U has a bigger list of youngsters coming up the ranks - Rooney is a great steal and i sure hope he can rein his temper in, Kieran Richardson is exciting and so are Ronaldo - assuming he will stay - and Fletcher...but with Arnesen in stamford bridge, u can expect Chelsea also to play catch-up....

Lets wait and watch... Long Live Les Bleus !!

10/20/2005 03:49:00 AM  
Blogger maverick said...

Mate, I'm not Chelski bashing. I give it to you that money aside, what's achieved on the pitch is to be respected and I respect that. I'm a huge Lampard fan myself. All I'm saying is that ManUtd is going through a slump like any other club - its tougher for us cause we haven't seen 2 bad years let alone 1. Its good for football if the Premiership is not decided before Christmas - its like Schumi deciding the F1 championship last year! I really care more about ManUtd setting its own house right than care about Chelski-bashing. Lets see what happens on Nov 6th.

Couple of points though...we'll compare Rooney or Ronaldo with Zola when they reach 37..then it would be a fair comparison - right now its apples to oranges. And its the injuries themselves I'm talking about, managing them comes later. I was saying that Chelsea has been injury-free which is a huge plus in EPL. Look at Arsenal.

10/20/2005 06:42:00 AM  
Blogger airanand said...

whoa!! some heavyweight commenting here from rival fBall club fans!!

I dont really support (in the 'fan' sense) any footy club.. but just to irritate a roomie of mine (he is an avid ManU guy) I predicted that they would fare poorly this yr (mainly coz Ronaldo plays every much.. I am serious abt this point!!)..

in the beginning of the season.. he had a great time.. saying see this.. what a start.. this is destiny.. and so on..

well.. suffice to say.. right now.. I hold the upper hand!! :)

10/24/2005 12:13:00 AM  

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